In the closing section, I look at why the physical-spiritual contrast is a true but inadequate way to compare the work of Joshua and Jesus (who share the same name).
Some interpreters look at Joshua and Jesus through the contrast of physical fulfillment and spiritual fulfillment.
Joshua, they note, is promised covenant prosperity: protection from God’s enemies and success in all his endeavors (Josh. 1:5-8). Jesus, however, gives up physical comfort and protection in order to serve as our final sacrifice.
Joshua leads the conquest of a physical land through physical war; Jesus rules a spiritual kingdom where we fight with spiritual weapons as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 1:21).
This observation is true, so far as it goes.
It helps us to remember that in this world we are not promised physical safety or success.
It reinforces the crucial truth that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
But the physical-spiritual contrast is ultimately inadequate.
We must remember that the story is not finished.
There is another act to come in this divine drama.
Christ will return and he will physically (as well as spiritually) defeat all of his enemies once and for all. “Unlike the wars of old that led only to more bloodshed and misery, Christ’s global judgment and victory when he comes again will truly be the war to end all wars (Matt. 3:11-12; 24:27-25:46; Rev. 17:1-20:15).”*
We will enter into the Promised Land, which is no longer restricted to a strip of land in the Middle East but is now expanded to include the whole earth (cf. Matt. 5:5; Rom. 4:13).
Christ himself will wipe every tear from the eyes of our new resurrection bodies as we live securely in his presence forevermore (Rev. 21:4).
One greater than Joshua has appeared and will one day return again.
And on that day, all will see that the battle truly does belong to the Lord.
[* Michael Horton, “Notes on Joshua,” ESV Gospel Transformation Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).]